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For white-sand beaches, salty breezes, freshly caught seafood, and no crowds, head to one of the world’s best secret islands.
Colombia: Islas de Rosario
Best Secret Islands on Earth
Colombia: Islas de Rosario
Cartagena may be the latest Latin American hot spot, but do yourself a favor and venture off the coast to the Islas de Rosario—a chain of 27 mostly uninhabited islands that are home to the country's largest coral reef. With their mangrove-dotted white-sand beaches, they're also known as paradise for in-the-know Colombians. Stay at the tropical-chic San Pedro de Majagua Hotel (57-5/664-6070; hotelmajagua.com; doubles from $290), on Isla Grande. There, you'll find 17 white-on-white rooms with nautical accents (wooden oars, stripped lamps) and panoramic Caribbean views, and a restaurant that serves regional dishes such as fresh-caught snapper, grilled whole and served with coconut rice. Of note: the hotel organizes snorkeling and diving excursions in 45 different locations where you can spot butterfly fish, stone bass, sea turtles, and about 1,300 other tropical species.
T+L Tip: Come nightfall, take a boat to the Enchanted Lagoon, on the other side of the island, to see thousands of luminescent plankton sparkling under the moon. —Stirling Kelso
Hollywood scouts were on to something when they skipped over Mykonos and chose a secret island in Greece as the location for Mamma Mia. The movie was a $600-million hit, in part because it fueled peoples’ fantasies of escaping to a secluded island (and yes, those catchy ABBA tunes didn’t hurt).
Surprisingly, that picture-perfect movie location, Skopelos, has stayed under the radar. When you hop off the ferry, you’ll be wowed by the view of the shimmering Aegean Sea, the island’s tile-roofed tavernas, and a decided lack of travelers.
Related: 12 Affordable Private Island Resorts
There are still gems like Skopelos hidden all around the globe, if you know where to look. T+L editors have done the hunting for you to uncover secret islands where you can truly unwind, from the rugged Chilean spot that inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe to a tiny island in the Caribbean that was virtually deserted for decades until a luxe resort opened in 2010.
Similar high-end resorts have been popping up across Southeast Asia, where many islands are vying to be the next Phuket. So those looking to get far off the grid head to Con Dao, an archipelago 110 miles off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. Sheer granite cliffs border deserted beaches and crystal-blue water, and a private guide can lead you by motorbike to remote spots like the spectacular Dam Tre Bay lagoon.
Diving enthusiasts should opt instead for the secret island of Mabul, off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, where the marine life is on a par with the Galapagos. Even better, the native sea moths, bobtail squids, and elusive paintpot cuttlefish are some of the only inhabitants.
Travelers looking to commune with nature can also find solitude on Nicaragua’s acre-wide Jicaro Island on freshwater Lake Nicaragua. The nine casitas at Jicaro Island Ecolodge were built from storm-felled trees, and all the food is locally sourced; you can sip a passion-fruit-banana cocktail as you sit by the infinity pool.
Prefer something closer to home? On Washington’s Lummi Island, a nine-square-mile oasis on Puget Sound, you can sample the region’s bounty (net-caught salmon, spot prawns) while watching orcas ply the waters.
Whatever your daydream, you’ll find a destination to match by checking out our slideshow of secret islands around the world.